1 is 2 Many Blog

  • Improving the Fight Against Intersecting Epidemics: An Update on Federal Efforts to Address HIV/AIDS and Intimate Partner Violence Among Women and Girls

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and an important time to draw attention to the alarming prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) among women and girls. This is particularly true for women living with HIV, over half of whom have experienced IPV in their lifetime. An HIV diagnosis can trigger or exacerbate violence, while trauma and abuse can negatively impact management of this illness. Thus, for women and girls affected by the intersecting epidemics of HIV/AIDS and IPV, the consequences for their health and well-being can be devastating.

    As physicians who care for women, we see this intersection among our patients all too often; and, both data and experience have shown that women and girls of color are often disproportionately affected. Addressing the violence in our patients’ lives is therefore a critical part of supporting them to achieve optimal health outcomes, including improving their ability to adhere to treatment, achieve viral suppression, and live longer and fuller lives. 

    In an effort to respond to these complex problems, last year the Interagency Federal Working Group established in 2012 under President Obama’s memorandum released a report titled Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender–Related Health Disparities. The report outlined five major recommendations and emphasized the need for cross-agency collaboration to better address how violence against women and girls influences HIV acquisition and negatively affects the health of women living with HIV.

    Today, we are proud to announce two major accomplishments stemming from this report. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program have provided an outstanding example of Federal interagency collaboration. This joint effort will specifically allocate funding and resources to support transitional housing for women living with HIV, and who are experiencing violence in their lives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is also releasing a Trauma-Informed Approaches concept paper that identifies a new framework to address trauma experiences and victimization. This framework aims to help individuals, like women living with HIV, to modify negative behaviors resulting from trauma and ultimately improve health outcomes.

  • Supreme Court Decision in U.S. v. Castleman Will Save Women's Lives

    This week, the Supreme Court decided a case that will save women’s lives.

    Back in 1996, Congress made it a crime for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess a gun. As Vice President Biden has often noted, there is a direct connection between gun violence and domestic violence: when a domestic abuser has a gun, a victim is 12 times more likely to die than when he doesn’t. 

    Some courts, however, have set a high bar for what counts as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” – which has meant that many domestic abusers have been allowed to keep their guns. 

    But in United States v. Castleman (written by Justice Sotomayor), the Court changed all that. It recognized that domestic violence is a unique kind of crime that doesn’t always fit everyone’s idea of what’s “violent”: often, it can involve pushing, grabbing, shoving, scratching, or hair pulling – and which, over time, can “subject one intimate partner to the other’s control.” The Court also recognized that, in a number of states, these acts are prosecuted as crimes of “offensive touching” – which, before this week, meant some courts didn’t consider them to be domestic violence. But now, according to the Court, that’s enough to subject a convicted domestic abuser to the federal gun ban.

    This is a landmark opinion. As so many abused women know, what happens to them is a far cry from “offensive touching.” It is terrifying and debilitating, and can rob her of all manner of trust, security, and hope. It can make her – as the Vice President has also said – a prisoner in her own home. But at least now, the law recognizes that those who are convicted of these crimes have no business having a gun.

    Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.

  • Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the United States

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on The White House Blog. See the original post here.

    This week, I was honored to join a first-of-its-kind meeting at the White House: a roundtable of business leaders and advocates called upon to discuss building public-private partnerships aimed at helping end domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States. The meeting served as an opportunity to share strategies and concrete steps companies can take to address violence in their workplaces and communities.

    During the gathering, we heard from several companies that are working to improve the status quo, including Avon, Macy’s, Allstate, Viacom, and Kaiser Permanente.

    The need for action could not be more urgent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five women is the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. In fact, 60% of Americans 15 years of age or older know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. 

    Not only does domestic violence affect victims and families; it can also harm entire communities and the nation. More than 8 million paid days of work are lost every year because of domestic violence, and even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than $8 billion a year in lost productivity, health, and mental health costs alone.

  • New Chicago Shelter Will Help Victims of Domestic Violence Rebuild Their Lives in Safety

    Vice President Joe Biden with Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife Amy Rule backstage at the groundbreaking of a shelter for battered women

    Vice President Joe Biden with Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife Amy Rule backstage at the groundbreaking of a shelter for battered women outside the WINGS Metro facility in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, Nov. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Yesterday, Vice President Biden delivered remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for Chicago’s first new domestic violence shelter in over a decade. Wings Metro, a state-of-the-art facility, will increase the number of available beds in the city by 36% and expects to serve 100 families in its first year of operation after it opens its doors in June 2014.

    The creation of this shelter comes at a needed time in Chicago. In 2012, there were 51,174 reported domestic incidents in the city. In addition, 56% of women in homeless shelters in Chicago stated they had been victims of domestic violence, with 22% reporting domestic violence as the immediate cause of their homelessness.

    In his remarks, Vice President Biden asked us all to imagine “how cold today feels to the woman who is sleeping in a park with her four children because she had to run out in the night.” Wings Metro will go a long way to support survivors like this woman and will reduce family homelessness in Chicago. The shelter, which was developed through the collaboration of Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), Metropolitan Family Services, and the Greater Southwest Development, will increase the number of available beds in the city from 112 to 152 and will provide comprehensive services to survivors and their children. The Vice President noted in his remarks that this new facility is about more than just shelter—it is about giving survivors access to the services, privacy, and job training they need to rebuild their lives.

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks with Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the groundbreaking of a shelter for battered women

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks with Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the groundbreaking of a shelter for battered women outside the WINGS Metro facility in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, Nov. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    The Vice President was joined by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Senator Dick Durbin, both of whom have shown a strong commitment to the fight against domestic violence. Since being elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, Mayor Emmanuel has committed to expand funding for domestic violence services. He has dedicated $123,000 to provide court advocates to assist an additional 1,500 survivors as they go through the legal proceedings of their cases. Senator Durbin was one of the leading House sponsors of the original Violence Against Women Act; he has continued to be a strong supporter of the legislation after his election to the Senate.  

  • Supporting Workplaces in Providing an Effective Response to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Office on Violence Against Women Blog. Read the original post here.

    It is with great pride that I share the announcement of the new DOJ policy on addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace.  Given the seriousness of these crimes and their impact on employees, we believe this is an important step toward creating a workplace that is safe for all staff.  Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the release of the policy at OVW’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month event earlier today.  DOJ is the first major federal agency to submit a final workplace policy in response to the Presidential memorandum. 

    It is our sincere hope that this new policy will be used by other federal agencies, as well as private sector workplaces, as a model for developing a comprehensive workplace response that values the safety needs of survivors. 

    One-third of women killed in U.S. workplaces were killed by a current or former intimate partner according to one multi-year study.  Another study found that nearly one in four large private industry establishments reported at least one incidence of domestic violence, including threats and assaults. 

    Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking does not stop when a survivor arrives at work.  The violence is devastating for victims and takes a toll on the entire workplace as victims are often traumatized, harassed and terrified by abusers while at work.  In fact, domestic violence victims lose a total of nearly 8 million days of paid work each year—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs as a result of the violence they experience.  Victims are often forced to take time off work to go to court to obtain a restraining order or to seek medical and mental health care.  Many are forced to leave their jobs altogether.  Perpetrators also lose productivity by stalking, calling, and badgering victims – often on company time and using company resources like phones, the internet, and company cars.  The CDC estimates that intimate partner violence, which includes rape, physical assault, and stalking, costs $1.8 billion in lost workplace productivity each year. 

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Survivors Can’t Afford to Wait

    Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended, but our work to end abuse continues. Today, in this country, women and children continue to suffer from unspeakable violence because they are afraid to seek help without legal status. When immigrant survivors of abuse without legal status are, according to one study, half as likely to call the police to seek the help they need, we must act.

    Since it was first signed into law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA has recognized the need for special protections for immigrant survivors of abuse, including self-petitions and categories of visas for victims of violent crimes and human trafficking. But while VAWA includes key provisions to help immigrant survivors, it is not enough.

    Now, Congress has the opportunity to take an important step towards protecting victims, and supporting law enforcement to create safer communities for all Americans. Commonsense immigration reform would significantly benefit immigrant women all over the country. The Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill by a wide, bipartisan majority. And Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that’s similar to the bipartisan Senate bill.  So it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether to move forward with immigration reform. Unlike many other issues in Washington, immigration reform is one that both parties can agree on. Congress must finish the job on commonsense immigration reform